Review of Wonder Momo

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Wonder Momo is an anime I discovered whilst skimming through Crunchyroll’s library the other day. At first glance it looked like something right up my alley. Cute girls and superheroes rank high in my list of favourite things after all. Had I known that the cartoon was based off a Bandai Namco video game I would have given the series a miss and would have saved myself much disappointment. Most anime inspired by games tend to suck and Momo proved to be no exception to that rule. In case you don’t know, the original Wonder Momo was an eighties arcade brawler. One amusing thing about the game is that jumping would cause Momo to flash her panties, which would momentarily cause her to pause in embarrassment.

OVERVIEW

Kanda Momoko is a high school student and aspiring pop idol. One day she bumps into a green skinned man who presents her with a mysterious orb. The sphere gets absorbed into Momoko’s body, allowing her to transform into the titular heroine. Momoko decides to use the power to protect Earth from space invaders. Well, I assume the extra terrestrials are trying to conquer the planet. Most of the time they just seem to commit random acts of vandalism at school gymnasiums and fashion shows. In episode one a photographer named Terashima Natsuhiko spots Momoko transforming into her alien smacking alter ego. He promises to keep Momoko’s identity a secret. Not sure why. It’s not like the transparent visor Momo wears is at all effective at masking her features!

The villains that Momo battles look like mimes, whose pale heads have been replaced with red faces (resembling the YouTube image you sometimes get when attempting to view a removed video.) Said enemies are more useless than a Koopa Trooper or Dynasty Warriors soldier, which is just as well given that Momo is a terrible hero. Often she has to be rescued by her own mother or a blonde rival named Matsuo Akiho. I guess you can’t expect much from someone who uses a hula-hoop as a weapon. There’s not much damage that one can do with a plastic ring after all… although I am sure the destroyed antiques owned by parents who have overzealous children would dispute otherwise. Kids like to wreck expensive things almost as much as cats enjoy assaulting Christmas trees.

VERDICT

My rating for Wonder Momo is one star. Usually I am more generous than your average reviewer when it comes to scores. Distract me with some eye candy or jokes and I am likely to award your show a three out of five at least. Wonder Momo however isn’t funny, just stupid. The writing is poor and it’s clear that little effort was put into the production, as evidenced by the times the studio recycles transformation sequences and fight footage. Adding salt to the wound is the last episode, which ends on a cliffhanger. Momo and chums teleport into the alien mother ship via a portal, confront a bunch of guards and it just ends there. The series aired way back in 2014 so the chances of a sequel ever coming out, to finish the unresolved story, are pretty much zero.

On the plus side Wonder Momo is mercifully short. The series is only five episodes long and each instalment only lasts for seven minutes. Even less if you subtract the opening and ending credits. Although I appreciate that it’s tough to tell a good story with such a concise running time that’s no excuse for Wonder Momo being so weak. Bikini Warriors along with The Comic Artist & His Assistants both managed to entertain me with quick skits, so why couldn’t Wonder Momo do the same? Given how rich anime is in humorous super hero franchises there’s no reason to check out Wonder Momo. One Punch Man, Tiger & Bunny, My Hero Academia and even the first half of Samurai Flamenco are superior to this anime. Wonder Moo Moo is complete and udder rubbish.

Review of ReLIFE

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Would you return to school if given the opportunity? That’s a tough question to answer, as there are numerous pros and cons to consider. My time at comprehensive was plagued with inept teachers and bullies, so I don’t have fond memories of the place. The cushier school hours easily trump my present day nine to six job though. Now that I am older and wiser, I would like to believe that I would fare better if given another chance at education. In ReLIFE, a thirteen-episode anime based on Yayoiso’s manga, twenty-seven year old NEET Arata Kaizaki accepts the challenge of spending one (all expenses paid) year in high school. Blending in with the student body won’t be a problem, as he has been asked to trial a miracle drug that transforms its users into teenagers.

OVERVIEW

Arata didn’t have much to lose when a mysterious lab asked him to test their youth restoring pills. It was either that or work retail (shudder) as a part time convenience store clerk. Arata’s first job, a stressful marketing gig, ended with him quitting after three short months and since then he has been unsuccessful in getting hired elsewhere. He’s so ashamed with his employment status that he even pretends to still work at his old office, whenever his drinking buddies invite him out for a few brews.

Tales of adults masquerading as kids are commonplace in fiction. ReLIFE handles the premise better than other shows though. Even if you strip away the anime’s sci-fi elements, it still holds up as a humorous high school romp that has a likable cast. Thankfully the series is devoid of sleaze, so you won’t see old man Arata inappropriately cavorting with girls. ReLIFE also isn’t one of those insufferable stories were an adult returns to school and becomes the most popular kid in class. Quite the opposite in fact! Despite looking young on the outside, Arata has the stamina of someone pushing thirty – so he sucks at sports. Academically he is also a failure, leading him to flunk all his exams. That’s actually realistic. If I returned to school now I too would struggle with subjects like math and science.

VERDICT

My rating for ReLIFE is three stars. Although technically a drama, the series consistently put a smile on my face thanks to its funny scenes and feel good moments. Arata may struggle with grades, but when it comes to enriching the lives of others he easily scores top marks. You might be wondering why such an outstanding guy cannot find work. Well, the reason is explained in one of the later episodes. It’s tied to a dark event that occurred in his first job. Despite enjoying the series, I wish the storylines were spread out more evenly. ReLIFE is only a single cour long and for some reason ends up dedicating most of its story arcs to a redhead named Kariu Rena, who is only an auxiliary character.

Best girl without a doubt is class representative Chizuru Hishiro. She is one smart cookie, but hasn’t got a clue when it comes to socialising. Chizuru reminds me of Sawako (Kimi ni Todoke) because they both possess awkward smiles that creep people out. There’s some romantic chemistry between Arata and Chizuru, although the former is reluctant to pursue a relationship due to their age gap. I am curious to see what will happen next between the pair; especially given the bombshell that the show ends on. Thankfully more animated ReLIFE is due out in 2018. Crunchyroll also hosts the source material, so fans can follow Arata’s future exploits that way too. Good to know that the story of the youth restoring tablet won’t end on a cliffhanger… that would be a tough “pill” to swallow.

Review of Beautiful Bones

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Beautiful Bones is a light novel adaptation that is presumably titled after its protagonist Sakurako Kujo, who happens to be an attractive osteologist. Either that, or the title is referencing Shotaro Tatewaki’s reaction to her. When the aforementioned teen first spotted the “beautiful” lady he must have gotten a “boner.” Shotaro was so smitten with Sakurako that he started stalking her. Trailing the gorgeous Sakurako eventually culminated in the pair meeting and Shotaro becoming her unofficial assistant. Often, when the duo ventures outside in search of animal carcasses, they stumble across human remains. It then falls on Sakurako to use her expertize to solve the murder they have just uncovered.

OVERVIEW

This 2015 anime, based on Shiori Ota’s books, is worth watching for the eccentric lead alone. Sakurako is a genius in her field, but not much of a people person. Her blunt remarks often cause offence and her skeleton obsession sometimes sees her squabble with the police. She just cannot understand why the authorities won’t allow her to keep the bodies she discovers! Those seeking an action packed series better look elsewhere, as the show is mainly made up of scenes where people chatter. I can’t imagine that the artists at studio Troyca were overly challenged by this project. The cartoon’s most visually impressive moments occur whenever Sakurako dons latex gloves, in anticipation of inspecting a crime scene. Said sequence features CG undead critters.

Sakurako is a captivating character, but the support cast are far less interesting. Her right hand man Shotaro is your typical anime male. A nice guy who is rather plain. For the most part he’s there to diffuse tensions, whenever Sakurako’s barbs cause umbrage. About the only person that Sakurako listens to is her elderly maid Ume Sawa. Just like a strict grandmother, Ume scolds Sakurako on the occasions when she ruins her appetite by overindulging in sweets. The show’s mascot is a pooch named Hector, that Sakurako procures later on in the series. Hector’s past owners had a habit of meeting an untimely demise. Frequent exposure to the dead has given the mutt a sixth sense for sniffing out corpses.

VERDICT

My rating for Beautiful Bones is four stars. It’s a show that I can recommend to viewers who dig a good whodunit. The cases that Sakurako tackles aren’t mysteries you are likely to solve yourself, but they do a good job of highlighting what a powerful tool forensic science is. It would be unrealistic for someone to come across so many murders (although that never stopped Murder She Wrote from becoming popular) so not all of the storylines revolve around killings. Episode three for example has Sakurako investigating an alleged suicide, whilst a two-part tale titled The Entrusted Bones sees the sweet-toothed osteologist track the origin of human bones stored within a school’s science department.

The only issue I have with Beautiful Bones is with its conclusion. Although the series is mainly comprised of standalone adventures, its finale wraps up by setting up a villain named Hanabusa. He is a devious painter who collects skull fragments. Rather than get his hands dirty, Hanabusa preys on the emotionally fragile and convinces them to take their own lives. He can then harvest the remains to claim his trophy. Hanabusa is still at large, when episode twelve closes, and an after credits clip hints that he has set his sights on Sakurako. How things will play out remain up in the air, because a second season is unlikely to ever get made. If you are hoping for an animated resolution I am afraid to say that you are “boned.”

Review of Erased

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Does anyone else remember Quantum Leap? That’s what Erased reminds me a little of. Aspiring manga artist Satoru Fujinuma doesn’t switch bodies, like Sam Beckett did, but he does possess the ability to prevent tragedies via time travel. In the first episode, whilst out delivering pizzas, Satoru uses his power to save a child from getting run over. Good job Satoru, although I suspect that heroic diversion will cost you a tip. By the time you recover from the injuries sustained, during said roadside rescue, that pizza you were ferrying is bound to have gotten cold. Man, I hate it when Dominos present me with a lukewarm Thin N Crispy.

OVERVIEW

Adapted from Kei Sanbe’s comic, Erased is a twelve-part anime that chronicles Satoru’s biggest time leap ever. In the first episode Satoru is framed for the murder of his mother. Just when the cops are about to apprehend him, his consciousness travels back almost two decades – to the time when he was just ten years old. Based on how his Revival power works, Satoru suspects that the guilty party is a serial killer who hounded his hometown back in the day. In order to prevent his parent’s homicide Satoru will have to uncover the identity of a sick predator, who claimed the lives of three children back in the eighties.

The first step in resolving the abovementioned mystery is to befriend the murderer’s first victim, a reclusive girl named Kayo Hinazuki. As it turns out Satoru’s kindness could potentially save Kayo’s life in more ways than one. His immediate concern is to guard Kayo against the killer. Over the course of the story however Satoru learns that Kayo is being abused by her mother and takes it upon himself to protect her from that cruelty too. The bond that forms between the pair is sweet, almost bordering on romantic. Somehow the relationship doesn’t come across as creepy though, even if it is technically between a minor and a guy in his late twenties (Amos Yee would approve.)

VERDICT

My rating for Erased is five stars. Having watched the series I can finally see why the anime garnered so much praise back in 2016. The time travel elements are right up my alley and I also enjoyed the schoolyard slice of life moments. Aside from the main manhunt plot, the script does a good job of developing its lead. Satoru ironically matures by reliving his childhood. Aiding our hero are present day adult acquaintances and chums from his youth. From the supporting cast Satoru’s mother Sachiko Fujinuma is my favourite. Satoru affectionately calls her a witch, as she possesses an uncanny sense for reading his mind. Witchcraft may explain why she doesn’t seem to age too. Those curries she cooks could well be wrinkle-preventing potions.

I highly recommend Erased, although those seeking a good whodunit may wish to look elsewhere. Mystery is the one area were Erased isn’t exceptional. Viewers catch a glimpse of the killer during the tail end of the first episode. Said scene was enough for me to successfully deduce the antagonist’s identity as early as episode two. The script tries to cast doubt with a few red herrings later on, but it was for naught. For once, the obvious candidate turns out to be the culprit. Do I get a cookie for guessing right? My Sherlock Holmes skills deserve a reward. If biscuits aren’t available I’ll take a free pizza instead. Just make sure it isn’t cold.

Review of KonoSuba (Season One)

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Hurrah! I am now a Crunchyroll subscriber. Many moons ago I visited the site and was told that the service was unavailable in my country. That restriction appears to have been lifted now, allowing me to take advantage of a their fourteen day trial. Just as well because watching stuff over there for free is nigh on impossible, unless you have the patience of a saint, due to the constant barrage of adverts. The anime that took my Crunchyroll virginity is KonoSuba – a funny fantasy show about a Japanese shut-in, who is resurrected in a mystical land, after perishing in rather embarrassing circumstances.

OVERVIEW

In the first episode, of this light novel adaptation, teenager Kazuma Sato is given a second lease on life and transported to a magical kingdom. He hopes that his knowledge of MMORPGs will serve him well in this new land, but due to his puny stats he is only able to make a minimum wage via construction jobs. Although a career in adventuring is more lucrative, Kazuma is unable to complete any of the quests posted at the local guild. The one time he attempted to vanquish five giant toads it didn’t go well and culminated in his travelling companion Aqua getting slimed worse than Peter Venkman of Ghostbusters fame.

Aqua, by the way, is the rude goddess who gave the departed Kazuma the option of ascending into heaven or reviving in a world that is presently being hounded by the nefarious Devil King. Due to an afterlife legal loophole, Kazuma was able to drag Aqua with him into a nation where sorcery and medieval weapons are the norm. If Aqua ever hopes to return home she’ll have to aid Kazuma in accomplishing his ultimate goal of defeating the aforementioned demon monarch. Despite being blessed with divine healing magic, Aqua isn’t much help. She is cowardly, useless in a fight and extremely selfish.

CHARACTERS

Thankfully for Kazuma’s sake he is able to band together with more friendly, albeit unusual, allies as the series progresses. Megumin is the first person to answer Kazuma’s call for party members. She is a young caster who commands destructive Explosion magic. The ability to fire off a nuclear blast may sound handy, but the problem is that Explosion is the only spell Megumin knows. Even worse, whenever Megumin activates her signature move she collapses in an exhausted stupor and is unable to do anything else for the rest of the day. What a useless witch. Getting tired after one explosion is “bang” out of order.

Darkness is the next and final person to join Kazuma’s four-man group. Clad in armour, she is a blonde crusader – although the sword she wields is just for show. Due to terrible accuracy, which rivals the aim of a Rambo baddie, Darkness is incapable of striking any assailant… or even stationary targets for that matter. On the plus side Darkness is a courageous protector who willingly soaks up all damage directed at her teammates. The role of tank suits Darkness to a T, as she is a masochist who loves nothing more than being on the receiving end of physical pain and verbal abuse.

VERDICT

My rating for KonoSuba is four stars. As someone who enjoyed Slayers, I really dug the show’s mix of comedy and fantasy. It was fun to see whom Kazuma would face next, in his adventures, as the villains come in all shapes and sizes. The lineup of antagonists includes a slighted Dullahan, a runaway arachnid fortress and even flying cabbages. Natsume Akatsuki, who penned the source material, has created an interesting universe that borrows ideas from MMOs. Just like in a video game, KonoSuba’s characters acquire skills by levelling up. The first talent that Kazuma learns is the steal ability, which he promptly uses to pilfer panties. I’ll have to try that next time I roll a rogue in DnD.

KonoSuba isn’t perfect though. The early episodes could be better and the series doesn’t really click until Kazuma’s team has been fully assembled. I also thought that the artwork was inconsistent. At times the visuals are okay and on other occasions they look rough. Studio Deen continue to live up to their reputation of delivering erratic illustrations. I’ll forgive the scenes where characters go off model though, as no one expects masterpiece drawings from a comedy. Overall I had a grand time with KonoSuba. The first season only spans for ten episodes, but thankfully a new series is already out and available to watch on Crunchyroll (the website… as far as I know bread does not stream cartoons.)

Review of Plastic Memories

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What a coincidence. Last time I reviewed a movie featuring lifeguards who have plastic mammaries. Today I find myself writing about an anime called Plastic Memories. In the near future SAI Corp has developed androids that are indistinguishable from humans. These automatons, dubbed Giftias, are employed by companies and also purchased by civilians who desire companionship. Like an Xbox 360, these machines don’t last long before breaking down. Nine years is the life expectancy of a Giftia. After that the bot’s memory degrades, turning them into superhuman zombies. To prevent the hazard of artificial humanoids running amok, the Terminal Services department are hired to repossess Giftias whose warranty is on the cusp of elapsing.

OVERVIEW

Tsukasa Mizugaki’s college dreams were shattered when appendicitis prevented him from sitting his exams. Luckily for him, Tsukasa’s dad managed to procure a job at Terminal Services for his under qualified son. On his first day Tsukasa is paired up with a Giftia named Isla. Normally in these two man teams the Giftia does all the work and the human merely supervises. Despite her experience however Isla is a bit of a klutz, so it falls upon Tsukasa to do much of the heavy lifting during assignments. Tsukasa soon learns that his profession isn’t for the faint of heart. Giftia owners are usually resistant to losing custody of their mechanical chums… and who can blame them? Imagine buying a puppy, bonding with it and nine years later the pet shop demands that you return said pooch.

Isla’s co-workers are a colourful bunch. The section manager can’t stay within budget and has a strained relationship with his daughter. As a result veteran Kazuki Kuwanomi runs the operation. She reminds me of Evangelion’s Misato. Depending on the situation Kazuki can be a stern or compassionate mentor, and like Misato she is a bit of a drunkard when off the clock. Michiru Kinushima is the teenage rookie who is assigned to show Tsukasa the ropes. She berates Tsukasa when things go awry, but deep down cares for his wellbeing. Her partner Zack loves to expose Michiru’s tsundere tendencies. Yasutaka Hanada on the other hand is a flirt who often ditches work to go on dates. The only time he gets stuff done is when his teammate Sherry literally drags him into the office.

VERDICT

My rating for Plastic Memories is a four out of five. Whether viewers will enjoy or loathe the series will depend on their sense of humour. Some people will feel that the quirky jokes don’t mesh with Plastic Memories’ more dramatic moments. For me however it worked. It’s a bit like Clannad. Make me laugh along with the cast and I will get attached to the characters, which in turn makes the instances when tragedy strikes all the more impactful. Besides, without a little levity the show would be downright depressing. As an example episode one features an elderly lady who doesn’t want to be separated from her Giftia, which she treats like a granddaughter. Without the occasional gag, story lines like that one would leave me longing for amnesia to erase those heart wrenching plastic memories.

Don’t expect the comedy to shield you completely from feels though. After a few successful missions, romance begins to blossom between Tsukasa and Isla. Given that Isla’s existence is finite, you don’t have to be a soothsayer to predict how said love story pans out. First Planetarian and now Plastic Memories. Android waifus have a knack for making audiences weep. The narrative will make you value the importance of making every day count. It also taught me that distancing yourself from others, to avoid pain, is futile. Like they say, it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved. Rest in peace cherished Xbox 360. Our time was cut short by the dreaded red ring of death, but I will forever remember the fun times we had ogling Cortana’s cleavage.

Dragon Ball Z: Movie Collection One Review

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It’s time to review another movie combo pack from Manga Entertainment. Unlike the recent Beyond the Boundary set, I am pleased to report that this release’s content does not include a worthless recap film. Although Dead Zone and The World’s Strongest are not new movies (having premiered back in 1989 and 1990 respectively) this is the first occasion that UK fans have had to purchase either flick on Blu-Ray/DVD. Bundling both features together, rather than releasing them separately, is a nice gesture as neither film goes over the one-hour mark. Quality may trump quantity, but when it comes to anime paying full price for forty minutes of entertainment would be a bit of a swindle.

OVERVIEW

Dead Zone tells the tale of how Goku acquired the power of clairvoyance, after being involved in a car accident. Oh wait… I am getting confused with the Stephen King novel. In this movie the aforementioned Saiyan has to defeat a villain who has kidnapped his son. Said evildoer’s moniker is Garlic Junior, which is rather ironic. He resembles a Nosferatu and yet he is named after the vegetable people use to ward off vampires. Anyway, the rescue attempt won’t be easy as Garlic is more immortal than a Scottish swordsman – his reward for collecting all seven Dragon Balls at the start of the film. In order to defeat Garlic the spikey haired protagonist will have to band together with his nemesis Piccolo.

The World’s Strongest kicks off with Gohan and a humanoid swine searching for the titular Dragon Balls. Oolong, the perverted pig man, desires the mystical spheres so he can summon a pair of panties. Unfortunately for the horny hog, a scientist loyal to a genius named Dr Wheelo beats him to the punch. Said scientist uses the Dragon Balls to liberate his master from an icy tomb. Once freed, Wheelo arranges for Goku’s sensei Master Roshi to be abducted. Wheelo mistakenly believes that Roshi is the strongest human around and wishes to transfer his consciousness into Roshi’s body. Once again Goku ventures forth to rescue one of his acquaintances. Dragon Ball evidently relies on kidnap plots almost as much as it rehashes fighting tournaments.

VERDICT

My rating for Dragon Ball Z: Movie Collection One is a three out of five. From the limited selection of Dragon Ball films I have watched, I would have to rank Resurrection F above either of these two offerings. Long time fans of the series will however appreciate this nostalgic trip back to the franchise’s roots. Despite the age of the movies I didn’t think that the visuals looked all that dated. Although the animation is on par with what we have seen in the TV series, the artwork itself has received a slight clean up courtesy of a digital remaster. Out of the two movies I enjoyed Dead Zone slightly more. The World’s Strongest has a better story, thanks to its lengthier run time, whilst Dead Zone has the superior antagonist. Wheelo is just a Mother Brain wannabe with a robotic body.

One thing that I liked about the movies is that the action focuses on fisticuffs and energy blasts, rather than characters changing their hairstyles, as both stories are set prior to the time when Super Saiyan mode was unlocked. Goku even has to call upon the aid of his bow staff during one of the battles. Thanks to the concise running time neither movie suffers from excessive filler, which happens to be my chief complaint with the television show. Sadly the corny slapstick that DBZ is known for is still present here. If puerile jokes “piss” you off I can’t imagine that the scene were Gohan urinates on Krillin will be to your liking… pun intended.